Page last updated at 04:33 GMT, Saturday, 28 November 2009

College of social work 'could be profession's voice'

BABY Peter Connelly
Baby Peter had more than 50 injuries when he was found dead

A royal college of social work could be set up in England and Wales to provide a voice for the profession, the children's secretary has said.

A report commissioned after the Baby Peter case is expected to recommend establishing a national college.

But Ed Balls said the government would support it to become a royal college - on a par with the Royal College of Nursing - as soon as possible.

He told the Guardian that social workers' training was "not adequate".

Seventeen-month-old Peter Connelly died in Haringey, north London, in August 2007 after suffering more than 50 injuries and despite being visited repeatedly by social workers.

In response to the case, Mr Balls set up the social work task force, which will report back on Tuesday with a series of reforms designed to overhaul the profession.

'Lack of support'

Among its suggestions is likely to be the creation of a national college and Mr Balls said he had already held talks with Justice Secretary Jack Straw about upgrading its status further.

As well as acting as a voice for the profession, a royal college could oversee standards and training, he said.

He said: "I think there has been a culture of not enough voice, not enough representation and not enough of the social work profession itself shaping the future, saying 'these should be our professional standards, this is how we should do it and this is how we should reform'.

"We will support the national college to become a Royal College of Social Workers in the speediest way we can."

Mr Balls said that "in the first year of practice, we put social workers in situations without proper support and probation" that newly qualified teachers, police officers or doctors would never have to face.

He said all new recruits should get a year's probationary training on the job and more should be done to tackle "high referral rates, very high vacancy rates and a lot of variation in performance" across the profession.

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